Engaged to Jarrod Stone

By: Carole Mortimer

CHAPTER ONE




Brooke sat down at the reception desk, turning to face the girl who sat behind her. 'Has he arrived yet?'

Jean gave her an innocent look. 'Has who arrived?'

Brooke gave her an impatient glance. 'You know very well who. Don't tease this morning, Jean.'

Her friend quirked one eyebrow. 'Had one of those nights, did you?'

'Morning, actually. Has he arrived?'

'I gather you mean Mr. Stone? Then yes, he arrived about ten minutes ago.'

'Oh damn!' Brooke frowned her displeasure.

"Why? Did you want to see him?'

'Not really.' She pursed her lips. 'I'm-- He-- What did he look like?' She watched the other girl closely.

Jean gave her a strange look, dealing hurriedly with a call that came through on her switchboard. They weren't due to open until nine o'clock, and yet invariably there were calls coming through before then. 'How do you think he looked?' she said finally. 'How does he always look—gorgeous. Just as tall, dark, and handsome as usual.'

'He didn't look—well, different?'

Jean gave a firm shake of her head. 'He always looks the same, he always acts the same. He walks in here, gives me an arrogant nod of his head, and then walks straight into his private lift. He does the same thing in the evenings, only in reverse. The man's as impersonal to his employees as the machines he produces. Three years I've worked here now, and he still wouldn't recognize me if he saw me out in the street."

Their conversation was broken off as the office workers started to crowd into the building in preparation for starting work at nine. As the receptionist Brooke found the next half an hour very busy, directing people up to the various offices and dealing with the tannoy system.

The morning rush over, she relaxed in her chair for a few minutes. Jean was kept busy with her switchboard, which gave Brooke time to think. She was a fool, a prize idiot. She was likely to lose her job for what she had done, and it was a good job, paying very high wages.

She must have been temporarily insane, must have had a brainstorm. When she had seen the announcement in the newspapers this morning she had felt sick, physically sick. And yet no one else had seen it— at least, no one had commented on it. Someone had to see it soon, it was so noticeable. It had seemed larger than life to her.

It had been there in the newspaper for all to see, an intended marriage between Brooke Faulkner and Jarrod Stone. Her own engagement to the owner of this prosperous computer firm! And to make matters worse, he knew nothing about it!

She picked up the internal telephone on her desk as it began to ring. 'Brooke Faulkner speaking,' she said automatically.

'Get up here!' snapped a deep male voice.

She almost dropped the telephone in her panic. Jarrod Stone, it had to be! She cleared her throat. 'I—I beg your pardon?'

'You'll do more than that when I've finished with you,' he growled. 'I'll expect you in my office in precisely five minutes.' The receiver was slammed down at the other end.

She didn't need to be told that he knew about the announcement in the newspapers, the anger in his voice had been enough. Besides, he had hardly ever spoken to her before, and there could be only one reason he wanted to see her.

'Everything all right?' asked Jean, noting her pale face.

Brooke realized with a start that she was still holding the receiver in her hand. She put it hurriedly back on its cradle. 'I—I have to go up to one of the offices. Would you—would you look after the desk for me for a while?'

'Sure,' Jean agreed readily.

Brooke didn't quite know how she got into the private lift for the tenth floor, but somehow she seemed to have managed it. She had only ever used this lift once before in the six months she had worked for Stone Computers, and that had been two weeks ago when she had been induced to seek this terrible revenge on him.

It had all started when the model had arrived to take the advertising photographs. No one else had been available to take her up to Jarrod Stone's office and so she had offered to take her up herself. It had been a good excuse to see him. As Jean had so rightly said, he walked in the mornings and out again at night, taking no notice of them in reception at all.

As it had turned out Jarrod Stone's secretary had gone to lunch that day and her assistant was off sick. Brooke had hardly been able to believe her luck when she had stepped out into the outer office. The place had been deserted, which meant she would actually get to speak to Jarrod Stone herself. Since the day she had begun work here, and he had walked into the building to begin his day's work, she had fallen for him, hard.

He was so fantastic-looking, like a film star or something. He was tall, well over six feet, with a lithe athletic body that suggested he did not spend all of his time in an office, his skin tanned from much time spent in the sun. His dark over-long hair was styled away from his face, his deep grey eyes narrowed and enigmatic.